Mechanism behind the activation of dormant memory cells discovered

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“This discovery has far-reaching consequences both for the molecular understanding of memory formation and the understanding of the clinical electrical stimulation, which is already possible, of areas of the brain for therapeutic purposes,” says the MedUni Vienna researcher.  Similar principles are currently already being used in the field of deep brain stimulation. With this technology, an implanted device delivers electronic impulses to the patient’s brain. This physical stimulation allows neuronal circuits to be influenced that control both behaviour and memory.

The latest findings very much form part of the highly controversial subject of “cognitive enhancement”. Scientists are currently discussing the possibility of improving mental capacity through the use of drugs – including in healthy subjects of all age groups, but especially in patients with age-related impairments of cognitive processes.

With regard to the study design, two electrodes were implanted into the brain in an animal model. One transferred electrical impulses to stimulate the hippocampus, while the other transferred the electrical signals away. “These electrical potentials are the electrical equivalent of memory and are known as LTP (Long Term Potentiation),” explains Lubec. The generation of LTP in an in-vivo experiment was accompanied by specific changes in the receptor complexes – the same receptor complexes that are also activated during learning and memory formation.

Service: Brain Structure and Function
“Dorsal hippocampal brain receptor complexes linked to the protein synthesis-dependent late phase (LTP) in the rat.” Lin Li, Han Wang, Maryam Ghafari, Gunyong An, Volker Korz, Gert Lubec. Brain Structure and Function (Impact Factor: 7.84). 01/2014; DOI:10.1007/s00429-013-0699-z. 

MedUni Vienna

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